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Growing up as a sports-obsessed child, excelling in netball which she was first introduced to in grade six by her Physical Education teacher, her love for sport expanded from netball to now becoming the Vice Captain for Zambia's first ever Baseball5 (U18) National Team. With her name going down in the country's history, she is among the young players who debuted at the 2023 Baseball5 U18 African Youth Championships held in Ghana.

Catherine Chitani, a 17-year-old in grade eleven at Batoka Secondary School in Choma District was born on the 28th of December 2006 in the Southern Province of Zambia, Namwala district. She is the third child of the family and was raised alongside four other siblings. Catherine was enrolled at Shimayoba Primary School in Namwala where she schooled from grade one to seven. It was at this school that her love for sport was ignited.

I have been a lover of sport since my P.E. teacher introduced me to Netball in my sixth grade which I played passionately until grade seven.

Now poised to participate in the World Cup scheduled for October this year in Turkey, she would not have predicted that her passion for sport would be life-transforming in her high school years. Following the need to form a national team through local tournaments which were used to identify talent, Baseball5 was introduced by the Zambia Baseball & Softball Association (ZBSA) through the Development of National Sports System (NDSS) project at Batoka Secondary at the beginning of 2023, which Catherine hurriedly joined out of curiosity she narrated.

Catherine Chitani, Baseball5 National Team U18 Vice Captain
Catherine Chitani, Baseball5 National Team U18 Vice Captain

With her love for the sport in general and as a way to know more about the sport, she worked hard to be part of the elite few who would make up the final U18 national team.

"I joined the newly introduced sport trying to see how I would perform in it. I participated in inter-school competitions and got selected to represent my province in Lusaka for the national championships where we camped at OYDC for two weeks," she said.

To prepare for their first international competition, Catherine and her squad had to put in a lot of work as soon as they joined the team. In expressing her joy, she described how flying outside of the country for the first time was an exciting experience, especially in light of the just-established sport.

The team's performance during the competition was outstanding, they finished third to win a bronze medal, which was encouraging, according to the team's national head coach Kunda Mwila.

The team performed well despite being new to the sport, we secured a bronze in a tough competition.

The coach praised Catherine as a model team leader with strong leadership skills who can be relied upon to manage the squad and foster a sense of camaraderie.

Kunda Mwila, Baseball5 Head Coach (Green) and Catherine (Orange)
Kunda Mwila, Baseball5 Head Coach (Green) and Catherine (Orange)

The teenage vice-captain, meanwhile, claimed that despite being difficult, the competition offered her a lot of exposure to the sport and allowed her to observe how other teams are organized; as a result, her performance and that of the team improved greatly.

Her journey has not been without challenges, just like every other story, primarily because she had to balance both her studies and her sport while exerting equal amounts of effort to produce the appropriate outcomes.

"Mixing school and sport means I have to balance between the two to perform well in both, Earlier this year I missed close to a month of school because I was in Ghana for the qualifiers," she said.

I almost quit, because I looked forward to getting money immediately after working hard but unfortunately I got nothing, I felt I was wasting my time but my coach advised me accordingly and since the determination has kept me going

Catherine, however, adds that her community, school and family have been very supportive to ensure that she attains the best results in both, She says her school has helped her catch up with her school work within time which pushes her to do even better.

Inspired by a seasoned baseball player, Ken Matishi, who currently serves as the General Secretary for the Zambia Baseball and Softball Association, Catherine aspires to be the country's best player and is optimistic she will set the mark in the sport.

I believe in my abilities having been voted as best player before, I want to be Zambia's best player which am working towards. I want to be an international coach and a star, am inspired by Kylian Mbappe, Ronaldo and our General Secretary, he is my inspiration in this sport.

Baseball5 National Team U18
Baseball5 National Team U18

The young emerging star wants the sport, which she wishes had been popularized earlier, to expand throughout the nation in order to inspire other young people to learn about it and show an interest in it. Five provinces presently offer the sport.


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